New Delhi: Those international passengers who have arrived in India during the last 14 days, if symptomatic and tested positive, will be subjected to genome sequencing, in view of the new COVID strain in the United Kingdom, said the Union Health Ministry on Tuesday.
This applies to all the international passengers who flew to the country between December 9 and December 22, 2020.
"All the international passengers who have arrived in India during last 14 days (from December 9 to December 22, 2020), if symptomatic and tested positive will be subjected to genome sequencing, in view of the new COVID strain in the United Kingdom," the Ministry said.
"Others (returnee passengers) will be followed up by the respective state/district surveillance officers and will be tested as per ICMR guidelines (even if asymptomatic) between 5th and 10th day and found positive by RT-PCR," it added.
The government has issued a document titled "Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium" to monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 on a regular basis through a multi-laboratory network.
The Central government's National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), is a nodal unit that is maintaining a database of all samples of the new variants (of public health significance). The data is being epidemiologically analysed, interpreted and shared with state/district for investigation, contact tracing and planning response strategies.
On Tuesday, the Health Ministry informed that a total of six samples of 6 UK returnee persons have been found to be positive with the new UK variant genome. 3 in NIMHANS, Bengaluru, 2 in CCMB, Hyderabad and 1 in NIV, Pune.
The Ministry further said that from November 25 to December 23, 2020 midnight, about 33,000 passengers disembarked at various Indian airports from the UK.
All these passengers are being tracked and subjected by States/UTs to RT-PCR tests. So far only 114 have been found positive. These positive samples have been sent to 10 INSACOG labs (NIBMG Kolkata, ILS Bhubaneswar, NIV Pune, CCS Pune, CCMB Hyderabad, CDFD Hyderabad, InSTEM Bengaluru, NIMHANS Bengaluru, IGIB Delhi, NCDC Delhi) for genome sequencing.
All these persons have been kept in single room isolation in designated healthcare facilities by respective state governments. Their close contacts have also been put under quarantine. Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts and others. Genome sequencing on other specimens is also going on.
The situation is under careful watch and regular advice is being provided to the States for enhanced surveillance, containment, testing and dispatch of samples to INSACOG labs.
Taking a strong step as a precaution against the UK virus, the Central government has temporarily suspended all flights coming from the UK with effect from the midnight of December 23 till December 31, 2020.